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High profile individuals will be next before passport inquiry

Former House president Demetris Syllouris

The three high profile individuals who appeared in the al Jazeera network expose will be the next to testify before the panel investigating passports granted under the now-defunct citizenship-by-investment (CBI) scheme.

Myron Nikolatos, chair of the committee of inquiry, told news outlet Stockwatch they will be summoning former House President Demetris Syllouris, former Akel MP Christakis Giovanis, and lawyer Andreas Pittadjis.

The three featured in al Jazeera’s undercover video, aired last October, where they appeared to be assisting the proxy of a pretend Chinese investor – with a supposed criminal record – secure a Cypriot passport under the CBI.

Syllouris and Giovanis resigned their posts shortly after the documentary aired. Pittadjis was among the registered service providers for the island’s controversial citizenship programme.

Nikolatos said they will soon fix the dates for the three Cypriots to appear before the committee of inquiry. Syllouris will probably go first.

The panel will be resuming its hearings after having just compiled an interim report which has been handed to the attorney-general.

Nikolatos confirmed the interim report found that 51.8 per cent of 6,770 citizenships investigated were granted outside of the enabling law – that is, unlawfully.

He said the cabinet greenlit the naturalisation of applicants’ relatives, whereas the enabling law at the time did not offer this capability.

On Monday government spokesman Kyriacos Koushos defended the decisions, saying they concerned the families of investors.

“How can we expect an investor to be naturalised but their children and spouses who are coming with them to Cyprus are not?” Koushos said.

As for the remaining 48.2 per cent of the cases, the former supreme court judge said they were not necessarily without problems. The vast majority are above aboard, but in some instances the applicants did not meet the criteria as set out by the cabinet.

In certain instances, Nikolatos added, there exists the potential of fraud on the part of applicants, and in other cases potential fraud on the part of the service providers – such as law firms.

The interim report also recommends revoking a number of citizenships.

Nikolatos said the responsibility for the naturalisations lies with the cabinet.

But he noted that the committee of inquiry is not a court to attribute final liability – it will merely record its conclusions and recommendations.

Responding to a question, he said he could not attribute intent “because intent implies ill intent with ulterior motives.”

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